One thing is for certain—if you don’t build a decent fire in your fireplace, it won’t be an effective source of heat. Even homeowners who use their fireplace for ambiance only will benefit from a bigger, more beautiful fire when it’s built correctly.
Whether you have a stove, insert, or fireplace, you should only burn properly seasoned wood. When trees are cut down, the wood can have up to 75 percent water content still in its trunk. This water makes it difficult for the wood to burn; makes it burn incompletely; creates more smoke, pollution, and creosote; and causes the chimney system to be less efficient.
Likewise, you should never burn clothes, trash, or paper in your fireplace for the same reason—it burns incompletely and leads to extra creosote, soot, and pollution. It can also be dangerous to burn light materials like paper, leaves, or pine needles. These items burn quickly and hot, and their weight causes them to rise up the chimney aflame, which can ignite creosote and debris on the flue walls.
Building Your Wood Fire
- Prime a cold chimney by first lighting a rolled-up newspaper and holding it at the mouth of the chimney. This small amount of heat slowly warms up the cold air in the chimney that will block the warm air from rising to vent your new fire.
- Gather your seasoned firewood including large logs, smaller logs, and kindling, as well as your lighter or matches. Never use gasoline, kerosene, or lighter fluid to light a fire in your fireplace, stove, or insert. Instead, use a small amount of lint and wood shavings to ignite your fire.
- Build the fire that chimney professionals recommend, called a top-down fire. Build in the opposite direction most are used to, from the top-down. Start by placing your largest pieces of wood at the bottom with ends front and back. Stack smaller wood, decreasing in size in 4-5 levels above, stopping when you have a stack about ½ the height of your fireplace. This is when you add your kindling. You need enough kindling to ignite easily, and it can be topped with wood shavings and a bit of lint. As the kindling burns, it will ignite the smaller pieces below, and so on, until the fire burns from top-down.
The top-down burn is a more efficient fire-building technique. Once the fire is lit, it continues to burn because of gravity, flames and coals fall, igniting the level below. The top-down burn also burns more efficiently because the wood burns more completely and the smoke has a straight route to the flue. Additionally, the flame will be brighter and warmer because it won’t be underneath the stack of wood.
Remember as you’re building your fire, that too much ash can be dangerous. Safely remove ash before building your fire, leaving a ¼ inch at the bottom of the fireplace.
If you still have difficulty lighting and keeping a fire burning, you may have a chimney issue. West Texas Chimney and Venting Solutions can assess your chimney, gives us a call today or start your appointment online!